Gary Brown imagines what the inanimate among us are thinking. This month, some thoughts from art at the museum.
Sometimes we say that great art speaks to us.
“Hi, I’m a Picasso.”
Well, it doesn’t usually introduce itself. It speaks volumes to our spirits. Text panels, tour guides and voices on explanatory audio tracks usually give us the details when we see the artwork displayed in museums. But, what if, instead of being some random scholarly voice of a docent or a recording, the words we heard were spoken by the artwork itself? Wouldn’t it be more interesting—almost like an artwork-led, behind-the-scenes tour?
“Yeah, Pablo painted me. Really didn’t take him that long, either. He painted a little before lunch and then a little after lunch. Before you knew it, I was done. Per minute, I’m probably his most valuable painting.”
Oh, museum visitors would have to get some technical details about each piece of art, for their time there to be thought of as truly educational.
“Yes, I am really a painting of a person. I may not look it, but what modern art really does? And you know Picasso. He gave me that trapezoid head. And the eye up in the corner. I’m personally not fond of me, but a lot of artsy people like me, so who am I to judge?”
Some paintings—artwork of groups of people in taverns or outdoor cafes—might invite an onlooker in. You’ll stand and look at such a painting and almost feel a part of it.
“Hey, bud, want a beer? You’re buying.”
That’s a good reason never to go to a reception for an exhibit of paintings with people drinking in them. Too many tabs in the paintings haven’t been paid yet.
“Barkeep! The next round is on the guy standing there with the wine glass, trying to look as though he wants to be here instead of at the ball game.”
Art can be a little haughty. It doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
“You have no idea what I mean, do you, dude? I could explain it to you, but I don’t think it would do any good. You look like kind of a paint-by-numbers guy. So, why don’t you just wander down to the section of the museum that has the realism paintings. They pretty much lay it out for you.”
Landscapes are friendly, though. A visitor to a museum will be standing in front of a painting of an ocean shore, wishing he were there—instead of in the museum—walking along the beach, feeling the ocean breeze, hearing the waves lap upon the sand, becoming calmer almost with each step. Who wouldn’t want to be in such a scenic spot? The painting itself probably wants to be there.
“Hey, just grab me and run. Run like the wind. Break me out of here. I’m begging you. Take me home. Bring me to the sea. I want one last look at a lighthouse …”
Granted, this sort of conversation is a little disconcerting. Legal issues must be taken into account. The typical art museum visitor wants to feel at home in a gallery—wants to feel intimate with the artwork displayed there. Still, there is a caution that needs to be addressed. These are public museums, admittedly, and exist for all to enjoy. But visitors should not seek to become too close to things being exhibited. Visitors should refrain from touching the artwork, especially the nudes.
“Don’t even think about it,” a naked statue might warn. “You lay one finger on me—even just on my arm—and I’m setting off an alarm.”